Embracing Digital

In our recent webinar on the Future of Lean we explored the need for organisations to embrace digital solutions to enable them to deploy continuous improvement more efficiently. You can watch the webinar here. 

It is clear that embracing technology will enable organisations to reduce costs, improve productivity and be more flexible. Our work with blue-chip organisations on developing improvement strategies and roadmaps incorporates the adoption of the right technologies to suit the demands of our customers and their teams.  

Over the last year organisations have made significant progress in their adoption of technology platforms – for meetings; training reporting; collaboration and visual management.  A change has happened due to a black swan event that has in many cases caused a monumental shift in adoption and in many cases significant process improvements.  The question is, will this change be sustained and is it driving the right behaviours within your business.  The red flag we are seeing currently is the cultural change that has happened, and whilst there have been some undeniable benefits, there is a danger companies are becoming more fragmented and more silo’d.   

What has become clear, is that Digital transformation will only be successful if there is a cultural and mindset shift within the organisation adopting the new way of working.  It requires engaging individuals and teams and inspiring them to explore the benefits and possibilities available to them. It is similar to the effective deployment of Continuous Improvement, about creating a mindset that embraces change. 

Organisations have been embracing automation and digitization of processes for many years, however the issue that has arisen is that when a process or system is automated the existing process is often replicated in a digital system. A bad process simply becomes a bad digital process. Granted there will be some initial savings in processing, but it will not eliminate potential waste and can often be to the detriment of the end consumer (think about the offshoring of customer service centres). 

To enable a successful digital programme it is necessary to:  

  • Engage all employees in the process 
  • Ensure the Organisations Culture embraces the opportunities presented and is adapted for the new way of working. 
  • Keep a Focus on the Customer  
  • Optimise the process before digitizing it. 
  • Ensure the process can be continuously improved. 

During the webinar we invited one of our technology partners Nintex to share how they analyse, monitor, automate and manage processes – driving improvements at all levels, and involving the whole team.  The Nintex Promapp solution is just one of many platforms available, and there are systems that have successfully democratized continuous improvement, enabling everyone in the organisation to be involved in both process mapping and identification of improvements, in a live environment.   

As an international training provider, we have also reflected on how digital has transformed our ability to engage with customers and create learning environments that are more flexible and responsive to a company’s needs.  Hybrid learning solutions allow us to engage and inspire teams anywhere in the world.  We now deliver workshops, training and coaching in a wide range of platforms including Webex, Zoom, and Teams.  Electronic workbooks provide practical and useful engagement solutions. Virtual training can be practical, meaningful and motivational.  It will not always replace face-to-face workshops, but it can be as powerful if managed effectively. 

This is nothing new, several years ago we visited the Siemens site at Congleton, where they were modelling line set ups in the virtual space using technology such as Oculus and Googleglass, at the time it seemed game-changing, they were able to optimize a line set up or line change without any impact on production. Through our work in TPM, we have seen the use of similar technology to support maintenance and engineering. We have seen go-pro’s installed on lines to monitor breakdowns and Strava used to map personnel movements across sites.  

The Future of Lean in the digital world is bright, it is presenting more opportunities for organisations to experiment with solutions.  Please do reach out and talk to us if you would like support with your Digital Transformation journey.  

For more information  


Phone: 0783-222-3453 

Insights from Seani Devlin, Abbvie

In this month’s SHINGO Forum we welcomed Seani Devlin, the brilliant and engaging Operational Excellence Lead at Abbvie, Ballytivnan. Seani shared with the group both the site and his personal insights on their Shingo journey. We invited Seani along to the Shingo Forum to talk about his employee engagement; tiered meetings and visual management.

Having visited Ballytivnan, it was fantastic to hear some of the back story to what enabled them to develop a World class manufacturing site. The site was founded in 1974 and is now a global centre of excellence for the development and delivery of drug delivery devices.  In  2018 the site was awarded the coveted Shingo Prize.  

At the heart of their Shingo journey was employee engagement and culture change. This was underpinned by the introduction of a Tiered Meeting structure.  Tiered Meetings are used widely within manufacturing companies and enable the ownership of problem solving at the source.  Abbvie have four Tiers and there is a process that ensures problem escalation and resolution occurs across the site. 

Some insights from Seani on the implementation of a tiered meeting structure:

  • It’s not easy, but don’t give up.  The implementation of an effective system requires persistence and courage.
  • Don’t underestimate the time it takes to set up the system and gain buy-in.  Abbvie’s system took around three years and constant iterations of boards and meeting formats.
  • Spend time preparing people – develop the skills required which will include listening and coaching skills. It’s worth discussing how to have difficult conversations.
  • Develop and encourage standard problem-solving approaches (Five Whys; Ishikawa etc)
  • Ensure the Tiers are connected and ensure that there is a clear escalation process for important issues.
  • Create an environment that is safe for people to practice having the conversations required for effective meetings.  KATA Coaching and problem-solving could help with this. 
  • Leaders need to walk the walk and practice the behaviours and conversations at their own level, so they gain confidence in themselves. 

John Quirke, our host for the session also had some thoughts:

“To be effective you need to ensure you understand the behaviours you want to enable (delegation, local problem solving, cross functional alignment) and ensure this is clear to leaders and managers. 

Learning to speak and listen does not happen by accident. Ensuring this is undertaken will enable individuals and teams to manage difficult conversations and hold more productive meetings.

Tiered Meetings area a pivotal system in the development of Enterprise Excellence. Their existence ensures that problems, solutions and accountability remain visible. They enable transparency of information and done well encourage ownership”  

At S A Partners we have been investigating the role of virtual boards for Tiered Meetings and whilst there are some great new platforms that enable this we really do believe the live boards will remain pivotal to creating open communication and the building of trust between teams.  To enable engagement of our virtual workers however it is definitely worth considering the range of hybrid solutions now available. 

Seani went on to talk about winning the prize and shared how much pride it had brought to every person on site, but that they were all passionate about the ongoing improvements, that SHINGO is part of an ongoing journey and they will continue to challenge the way that they think.

If you would like to join the SHINGO Forum please do email Jim.Brydon@sapartners.com, if you would like further information on SHINGO or Tiered Meetings please do contact me Ailsa.Carson@sapartners.com.